am nuts about Salvias,
especially the species adapted to drier
conditions, like the ones below. It's probably the genus I collect
more than- what am I talking about? Definitely got more species of
Salvia than anyting else. And without even trying, my collection
recently got bigger since the Botony Syndicate reclassified
Rosmarinus (rosemary) and Perovskia
(Russian SAGE, right?) as salvias.
There's so much to like. Want a
tiny ground cover? a sprawly bushy monster? a demure shrublet?
fragrant foliage? edible leaves? superfood seeds? flowers in
almost any color? happy hummingbirds? There's a 'salve-ia' for
whatever ails ya.
While not quite as
show-offy as their cloud forest relatives, these water-wise species
are assets for any Western garden with adequate sun and
drainage. There are plenty for wetter conditions and even some shade, but
these beauties are good for most conditions in Northern California. This
is only my first article on Salvias, and like
a hummingbird, I'll be returning to them again
and again. After the pictures, I list a few favorite resources.
These can become big aromatic monsters
you don't keep up with regular
pruning, but they do
grow quickly and smell like
Vicks Vaporub. Fuzzy,
silver, arrow-shaped foliage;
and persistant colorful calyxes
plant all year long. Give it a
at least annually for better
At right is my preferred version, 'West Texas
introduced to me by Digging Dog , and which I've
sold as 'Blue Willow sage'. And what an amazingly
shade of blue. The tiny flowers are delicately cast over
willowy wands that wave in the breeze, so while the
is bold, it's never overpowering. In Sebastopol I
bined it with a Helianthus that blooms at the same
time. This airiest of salvias is an essential
element for the California Cottage style.
The sacred white sage used in First People's
originates in southern climes but with great
disciplined watering, I've had sucess with it in the
cisco garden on the left, even with less than ideal
scent of this plant acts like human catnip for me,
just me according to all the broken off branches,
can't get too mad. Tall, elegant spires of white
wers and bees grace this grey sage in Summer.
another mood enhancing fragrance, if someone
just bottle it, but then maybe it wouldn't be as
gentle rubbing of the leaves is part of the
hybrid of two native species is one of the best
besides that scent and its tough demeanor, like a
of sages, the inflorescence reamains an ornament
while it stands like a light house summoning
seed-eating birds back when it's time to
feast. The violet-blue color of the
flowers glows in low light.
Common in our Californian chapparal, Black sage is
another plant important to
First People's culture, and
to the pollinators and birds
that enjoy its bounty. In this
Napa garden I prune it
to bring light to its exposed
like other woody species, ages
to a gnarly, bonsai-like
texture that brings a
well-earned patina of age to
'The Plant Lover's Guide to Salvias' by
John Whittlessy, published by Timber Press.
the Sea - on-line nursey on the Mendocino coast.
Cal Flora Nursery - friendly place with
plenty of hard to find non-Salvia treasures.
Pilitas Nursery - on-line (for now) nursery for
California native plants in the Central Coast, very informative, in-depth